United Way of Greater Los Angeles Report 'L.A. County 10 Years Later: A Tale of Two Cities, One Future' Unveils Threatened Social and Economic Climate in County

First Quantitative Report to Measure Los Angeles County from this Decade to the Last; Findings Show Widening Disparities Between 'Haves' and 'Have Nots'

Feb 09, 2010, 14:00 ET from United Way of Greater Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- United Way of Greater Los Angeles today unveiled its report, "L.A. County 10 Years Later: A Tale of Two Cities, One Future." The first quantitative report of its kind, the report compares the social and economic climate in Los Angeles in 1999 to 2009, and finds Los Angeles continues to be a city largely made up of "working poor," but shows signs of improvement in key areas like education. The United Way of Greater Los Angeles is leading a movement among business and civic leaders to pay attention, shift policy and make change, releasing the report during a working session of over 300 civic and business leaders in L.A. County that are ready to make a true difference for the city's future.

The report provides business, community and education leaders with a tool for measuring how Los Angeles County is faring within four key areas that contribute to the economic and social well-being of the city: employment and income; homelessness and housing; health and education. The findings illustrate that Los Angeles is made up of "haves" and "have nots," with 250,000 millionaires and 1.4 million poor, or 15 percent of the population, and that the gap between the rich and poor is widening. While results were largely unchanged between 1999 and 2009, the report findings underscore the erosion of the middle class in the community, and L.A. is in danger of falling further behind the country without action on key issues.

The Report finds areas of both peril and prosperity in L.A. County:

  • Key areas in need of improvement
    • Working poor in L.A. County is 7.5% greater than nation as a whole
    • Over the past decade, the graduation rate has remained at 60%, well below the national average of 70%
    • Obesity is on the rise at all income levels; rates grew twice as fast for poor adults, increasing by 9.2% compared to a 4% increase for high income adults
    • Saw an increase in the number of residents paying 30% or more of their income on rent
  • Key areas in which improvement has been made in the last decade:
    • On average test scores are up for all grades; participation in math classes are on the rise in younger grades
    • Children had greater access to health coverage
    • Violent crime has declined by over 30% in last decade
    • Studies (like United Way's Homeless Cost Study) show costs to provide permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless are 40% lower than the costs associated with living on the streets or in emergency shelters

"It's been ten years since we coined the term 'working poor' and it's clear that Los Angeles County's economic and social sustainability is severely threatened," said Elise Buik, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles. "We need to invest in our human capital in order to meet the growing economic and social demands we're facing now. We can do this by focusing our efforts on key areas that can bring us the most progress: jobs, education and housing. Our institutional leaders are stepping forward and forging new approaches to these issues. If we all pay attention to what is happening in our city and work towards shifting policy, it will help Los Angeles reinvent itself and make change and progress."

"Findings from this report show that problems once thought confined to the poor, like excessive rent burdens, falling wages and uncertain healthcare coverage, are seeping up the income distribution," said Manuel Pastor, professor of Geography and American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California. "It is of utmost importance to shore up the bottom in order to grow the middle class in Los Angeles, and we must take action now because shoring up the bottom will help secure the middle. It's not just about plugging the holes in our social safety net, as studies have shown that in regions with higher poverty, more segregation and wider income disparities cause slower overall growth. We can't leave people behind, or we'll continue to come up short in both our human capital and social consensus, both important to the County's prosperity."

The Tale of Two Cities Report incorporates goals and recommendations made within United Way's 10-year Action Plan, launched in 2007, which addresses issues facing Los Angeles County and provides the tools necessary to move more people out of poverty.  For the full report, visit http://www.unitedwayla.org.

About United Way of Greater Los Angeles

United Way of Greater Los Angeles is a nonprofit organization that creates pathways out of poverty by focusing on meeting basic needs, improving educational achievement and increasing financial stability for the most vulnerable in our community. Through its research work, United Way identifies the issues and works in partnership with community leaders and supporters to solve them by funding targeted programs and advocating for change. For more information, visit www.unitedwayla.org.

SOURCE United Way of Greater Los Angeles